Still another time for celebration in this land of ours is Fair Time. This is the time of year that many Americans join with friends, neighbors and relatives to celebrate and rejoice.
They traditionally bring together the riches of their collective efforts --- the produce of mother earth and the blessings of the good Lord. Many of these blessings are in the form of agricultural products --- good things to eat. They were often referred to by our immigrant ancestors from other countries as Harvest Festivals. Harvest Festivals or fairs can be most any size from small town fairs to county fairs to huge state fairs. Over the years I have visited and participated in all kinds of them.
There are certain events that are more or less universal with all fairs. Most have booths displaying farm products such as livestock and grain. Then there are the booths that display culinary results such as baked goods, clothing and crafts. No fair would be complete without rides and games. It is a time when many organizations get together to cook and serve food to the hungry crowd.
Merchants who have something for sale have long regarded the large fairs as an excellent way to display their wares. The modern farm machinery displays boggle this old farm boy's mind. A mold-board plow with 12 bottoms puts in the shade the 2 bottom plow I pulled with an old Fordson tractor.
I recall my first participation in the county fair near home. Cousin Marsh and I had our ponies and we decided to go the county fair and enter the pony races. It was 13 miles from the farm to the fair, in the neighboring town. We left early that morning as it was still hot weather in early September. We had Grandma fix us a sack lunch and she sent along a jug of drinking water. Near noon, we stopped in a shady spot along the side of the road near a little stream to eat our lunch. After watering the ponies, we turned them loose to graze while we ate. After a short rest, we decided to move on. As we attempted to put the bridles on the ponies, Marsh's pony, Billy, had other ideas. He took off for home, wearing a saddle and blanket but no bridle. Chasing him on foot was futile, so I gave chase on my pony, King. That was a signal to Billy that a race was on. I didn't have my lariat along, so I attempted to corner Billy by crowding him into a fence. That wasn't easy, but I finally succeeded in stopping him, almost a mile back toward home. I finally got a rope on Billy and started back towards the fair. I met Marsh --- hot, puffing and mad at Billy.
After we had ridden a few more miles it occurred to us that we hadn't brought anything to feed our ponies. As we passed a corn field, we stopped and harvested a few ears of corn that we strapped on our saddles.
When we got to the fair grounds we had no idea where we were to stable the ponies. Finally we spotted a friend whose father had both cattle and horses at the fair. He provided us with a stall and some hay and water. With the ponies bedded down, we found the gate starter and entered both ponies for the race the next morning.
After a tour of the fair ground, we were tired and ready to retire. Grandma had promised to pick us up about six o'clock. At 6:30 we weren't too worried. But at 7:30 we were wondering where we were going to sleep. We had spent the last of our spending money and we were still hungry. Grandma and Grandpa arrived a little after 8 p.m. They'd had a flat tire on the way over. In those days it took awhile to change a tire --- if you had a spare. They had one, but it was flat too. They were sorry to be late, but we sure were glad to see them.
The race the next day was scheduled for 10 a.m. We were there early and got our ponies ready. We rode the race bareback to give our ponies an edge on weight. In the final results of three heats, a black pony named Jigger won first, King was second and Billy, third. Although we didn't win first prize, we were elated. The prize money was three dollars for second and two dollars for third. We spent the rest of the day enjoying our winnings. The next day a neighbor offered to haul our ponies home in his truck. We accepted his offer and marked up our adventure to experience. We vowed we would be back next year and win first and second.